facebook photo envyI wrote yesterday about how seeing female athletes in sexual poses can make women think negatively about their own bodies.  Turns out that Facebook can have a similar effect, at least according to a new study.

The research, conducted by the Centre for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt found that social media is not helping people have a positive opinion on their body shape and size.

They found 600 Facebook users between 16 and 40 years of age and asked them how regularly looking at photos both of themselves and others on sites like Facebook made them feel about their own body image.  They revealed that over 51% of these participants felt more self-conscious about their bodies due to the constant exposure on Facebook.

“When people look at pictures of themselves and others on Facebook, it heightens their dissatisfaction with their body image,” Steve Crawford, associate director at The Center for Eating Disorders said. “Our culture is so weight obsessed, and Facebook isn’t helping. In fact, it’s making people feel fat.”

Crawford said the centre’s findings revealed that 75% of people believe they need to lose weight.

“The site is making it easy for people to put pictures up of them online, so people can comment on them. Someone might note how thin someone looks, but it just reinforces the notion that the thinner you are, the better you look.”

A seperate bit of research has found that Facebook is a popular haunt for the neurotic amongst us so these findings are perhaps not at all surprising, especially given that most people join Facebook due to a need to belong and to show off.  In other words, the opinions of others, or at least your place in relation to them, is of critical importance.

Of course, if you want to select a great profile photo, it would appear that a video is much more likely to portray you in a positive light.  Research has found that we find people more appealing in moving images than we do in stills.  This is due to the relative lateness of the still picture arriving on the human scene, therefore our DNA is wired to gauge attractiveness from the average of lots of points of view as we see people from different angles.

With research revealing that Facebook can harm your relationship though, maybe the best thing is to get off the site completely.